A former top agent of the National Security Agency, who came forward as a source for a lawsuit, has said that the agency conducted blanket surveillance in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Thomas Drake, the ex- NSA spy, says that the NSA collected and stored almost all electronic communications (including emails and text messages) in the Salt Lake City, Utah area during February of 2002.
“Officials in the NSA and FBI viewed the Salt Lake Olympics Field Op as a golden opportunity to bring together resources from both agencies to experiment with and fine tune a new scale of mass surveillance,” wrote Drake.
“The mantra was ‘just take it all,” said Drake in a recent interview.
Drake made these statements for a lawsuit filed in 2015 by Rocky Anderson, an attorney who was the mayor of Salt Lake City during the 2002 games, on the behalf of six Americans who believe their private communications were monitored and stored during that time.
“It’s incredibly important that the public be aware of what our government’s doing, and all of us standing up against it,” said Anderson in a telephone interview Thursday evening with The Washington Post. “We need to let our elected officials know that we will resist in any way possible this rather sudden transformation of our country, not only to a surveillance state, but to a nation where the rule of law seems to mean very little.”
Even with a reliable source, the former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden has denied that the mass surveillance did occur in Salt Lake City.
Wayne Murphy, the current NSA director also denied that the program was conducted.
“The NSA has never . . . at any time conducted ‘mass’ or ‘blanket’ surveillance, interception, or analysis . . . of e-mail, text message, telephone, or other telecommunications in Salt Lake City or the vicinity of the 2002 Winter Olympic venues, whether during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games or otherwise,” said Murphy.
Drake’s statements contradict both Hayden’s and Murphy’s. Drake claims he spoke with colleagues that were concerned about the program’s legality and that he also saw documents that directed surveillance equipment be moved to Utah for the program.
Drake worked at the NSA from 1989 to 2008.
“Drake had grown uncomfortable with the expansion of the NSA’s surveillance operations, authorized by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and leaked unclassified information to a reporter about waste and fraud in the agency,” writes The Washington Post. “In 2007, Drake’s home was raided by the FBI, and, in 2010, federal prosecutors charged him with 10 felonies under the Espionage Act. The case against him ultimately collapsed — Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2011 — and his ordeal is seen by civil liberty advocates as emblematic of overaggressive targeting of whistleblowers by the federal government.”
Most of the charges against Drake were dropped before his trial in 2011 and he was ultimately sentenced to one year of probation.
Back in 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that anonymous officials said the NSA and FBI partnered with Qwest Communications International Inc. to monitor all email and text communications during the 2002 winter games.
However, the former chief executive at Qwest at the time, Joseph Nacchio said he was not aware that his company cooperated with NSA during that time.
Documents leaked by Snowden also referenced the Salt Lake City program.
“In early 2002, NSA personnel met with senior vice president of government systems and other employees from Company E,” a leaked document stated. “Under authority of the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP), NSA asked Company E to provide call records in support of security for the Olympics in Salt Lake City . . . On 19 February 2002, Company E submitted a written proposal that discussed methods it could use to regularly replicate call record information stored in a Company E facility and potentially forward the same information to NSA.”
The Justice department pushed to dismiss the lawsuit back in January, but this motion was denied by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby.
Author’s note: This appears to be another cover-up by the NSA. Although this was in the wake of 9/11, this was still illegal and unconstitutional. This isn’t what we should expect from our government.
Editor’s note: In my day, intelligence agencies avoided spying on Americans like the plague. Any hint of collection on a U.S. person was scrutinized by attorneys an almost always shut down immediately. Unfortunately this is not longer the way.